LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Rick Pitino has an idea of where some points will come from on a Louisville squad he hopes will create scoring opportunities through his trademark pressure defense.
The Hall of Fame coach is confident that players such as junior guard Quentin Snider and sophomore wing Deng Adel will play big roles in making things work on both ends of the floor for the Cardinals.
For the 6-foot-2 Snider – a Louisville native who is the Cardinals’ top returning scorer (9.4 points per game), co-captain and floor leader – the high expectations aren’t different from his own.
“My goal this year is being more aggressive, taking the open shots,” said Snider, who also averaged 3.5 assists per contest last season. “But I still want to be a good facilitator and find easy shots for D.A. (Adel) and Donovan (Mitchell). … Coach just said I just have to take the shot, and that’s what I have to do.”
The 6-7 Adel looks to stay healthy after being sidelined for a month early last season with a left knee injury. He returned to average 7.2 points and 3.2 rebounds in five starts down the stretch and show glimpses of the athleticism that had him poised to break out before the injury.
A summer of training – and the looming threat from Pitino of spending time on the treadmill for passing up shots – have Adel motivated to shoot early, to shoot often and to rebound.
“That treadmill was my best friend and it was just little things,” Adel said. “The injury hurt me mentally and I felt like I was in the back of the pack. I had a lot of things I had to shake off. This will be much better.”
Pitino certainly hopes so as he cited contributions from Adel and Snider in a Tuesday news conference that addressed several topics. Among them was the ongoing NCAA investigation into escort Katina Powell’s book allegations that former men’s basketball staffer Andre McGee hired her and other dancers to strip and have sex with Cardinals recruits and players at the team’s dormitory.
The school’s investigation ultimately led to a self-imposed postseason ban in February that left Louisville outside of the Atlantic Coast Conference and NCAA tournaments and wondering what if after finishing 23-8 (12-6 ACC). Pitino said several times Tuesday that he and the program have moved on from the scandal and is eager to see what’s possible with players such as Adel, Snider and a lighter Mitchell.
“I think Deng is going to score a lot of points,” Pitino said. “I think Donovan is going to score points. I think Quentin Snider will get points. … I think you’ll see a lot of players step up and score. They’re very capable of doing that.”
Snider’s confidence and poise began growing after replacing the dismissed Chris Jones as a starter, when he averaged 9.5 points and 3.1 assists in 10 late-season Louisville games. The soft-spoken guard took it a step further last season, teaming with graduate transfers Trey Lewis and Damion Lee to lead the offense and provide chemistry that Pitino believes will be one of this year’s strengths.
Adel and Snide get their chance to showcase the improvements they’ve made over the summer in Wednesday night’s first Red-White scrimmage. No matter which squad they play on, the Cardinals expect energy from Adel while taking their cues from the veteran they call “Q.”
“Q is our anchor,” said senior center Mangok Mathiang, a co-captain. “He speeds the pace up, slows the pace down and calls the shots. He’s gotten better every year. With him doing his thing, we just try to help and say, `Q, it’s your rock, you do what you gotta do.”‘
VIDEO: John Wall confirms Billy Gillispie kicked him out of practice on visit
During an interview with Kentucky Sports Radio’s Matt Jones, former Kentucky guard John Wall confirmed a rumor that has been floating around Lexington for years: That on a recruiting visit, former Kentucky head Billy Gillispie kicked the player out of a practice.
Considering that Wall would go on to become arguably the most important recruit that John Calipari landed in his time at UK, maybe Billy Clyde could have gone about that a different way.
Then again, considering the number of stories we hear about his time in Lexington, I guess it’s not all that surprising that he only lasted two seasons.
Ivy League Season Preview: Princeton, Harvard and Yale headline as league makes major changes
There will be a major change in the Ivy League that we saw last season and the one that will on display this season: No longer will the conference’s automatic bid be given to the regular season champion. The Ivy was the last conference to hold out, but starting this year, the league will be holding a four-team conference tournament at the Palestra in Philly, an event that should be terrific for college basketball junkies while, at the same time, eliminating the main quirk of the Ivy that made it so unique.
That said, there is some benefit here, as the conference may not be a true contender to get a second team into the dance. Without a conference tournament, the second place team would have to put together a good enough résumé to earn a bid, and that’s not an easy thing to do in a mid-major conference.
That would be significant for the conference, because it has had as much success in the NCAA tournament as any mid-major league in recent years. The league has five wins in the last seven tournaments, all as double-digit seeds, the most recent being Yale‘s upset win over No. 5 Baylor in the first round last year. The Elis lose Justin Sears and Brandon Sherrod, but they bring back Makai Mason, the league’s Preseason Player of the Year and one of the best point guards in college basketball at any level. The 6-foot-1 junior averaged 16.0 points and 3.8 assists last season, has been working out with the German national team and made his name nationally with a 31-point performance in the win over Baylor.
Mason is going to need some help to step up this season, and there are options. Seniors Sam Downey and Anthony Dallier should be ready for bigger roles, while James Jones has added a slew of young talent in the last two recruiting classes. Those youngsters will have to step up if Yale is going to beat out Princeton and Harvard for a second straight league title.
Last season, Princeton was probably good enough to win the league. They finished 12-2 in the regular season, which, in most years, would have been enough to at least earn a shot at a playoff. Not so last year, but the good news is that the Tigers return essentially everyone from last season: Henry Caruso, Devin Cannady, Spencer Qeisz, Steven Cook, Amir Bell. They also get Hans Brase, a double-figure scorer in 2014-15, back from a torn ACL and return a myriad of young talent for depth. To me, Princeton is probably the favorite to win the Ivy this year.
But Harvard isn’t all that far behind, assuming that Siyani Chambers returns from his torn ACL at 100 percent. Chambers has been a star in the league since his freshman season and led the Crimson to a pair of NCAA tournament wins, but as a senior, he sat out following the injury. Tommy McCarthy had his moments in a promising freshman year starting in Chambers’ place, and that duo, combined with Zena Edosomwan in the middle, perhaps the best inside-outside punch in the league. The key for Edosomwan is consistency, and if he shows up to play every night, Tommy Amaker has enough talent around that trio to win any game on any floor in the league.
After those three, the Ivy is fairly open, which makes things interesting. Remember, that fourth-place finisher gets the last bid to the Ivy League tournament and a shot at the NCAA tourney.
With former Cornell coach Steve Donahue leading the way, Penn was much better late in the year than they were early in the season. And keep in mind, Penn would be playing home games at the Palestra. A team with 11 freshmen and sophomores returns four starters and may be the best of the rest. Dartmouth‘s Evan Boudreaux, who averaged better than 20 points and 10 boards in league play as a freshman, should at least keep the Big Green relevant, and the same could be said of Cornell‘s Matt Morgan, a sophomore that averaged 22.6 points in league play last year.
Both Cornell and Dartmouth underwent coaching changes this offseason, as did Columbia, who saw Jim Engles replace Kyle Smith. The Lions are in a bit of a rebuilding stage with the graduation of Maodo Lo and Alex Rosenberg. Brown brings back four starters, but they do so from a team that finished tied for last in the conference.
PRESEASON IVY PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Makai Mason, Yale
The performance that he had in last year’s NCAA tournament not withstanding, Mason averaged 16.0 points and 3.8 assists for the Elis last season. I think Yale is going to remain relevant in the Ivy League title race, and for them to be able to do that with Sears and Sherrod gone, Mason is going to have to go nuts this year.
THE REST OF THE PRESEASON ALL-IVY TEAM:
Siyani Chambers, Harvard: The ACL worries me, but with his track record, he’s on this list until it’s clear he’s not himself.
Henry Caruso, Princeton: Caruso’s numbers won’t jump off the stat sheet like some of the other guys in the league, but he’s a major reason the Tigers are as good as they’ve been.
Matt Morgan, Cornell: His numbers will likely take a hit with the new coaching staff and style of play, but this kid, as a freshman, averaged 22.6 points in Ivy League play. That’s nuts.
Zena Edosomwan, Harvard: He’s the most talented big man in the conference. The question is whether or not he proves as much on a nightly basis.
NEW YORK (AP) Defending national champion Villanova is the runaway preseason No. 1 in the Big East Conference.
The Wildcats are the choice of nine coaches – who cannot vote for their own team – while runner-up Xavier received the other vote.
Villanova senior guard Josh Hart is the coaches’ choice as preseason player of the year.
Following Xavier in the poll are Creighton, Georgetown, Seton Hall, Butler, Marquette, St. John’s, Providence and DePaul.
Joining Hart on the preseason first team are teammate Kris Jenkins, who hit the game-winning shot in last season’s national championship game, Kelan Martin of Butler, Maurice Watson Jr. of Creighton and Xavier teammates Trevon Bluiett and Edmond Sumner.
Shamorie Ponds of St. John’s is the preseason freshman of the year.
CBT Podcast: Big Ten Breakdown and Bold Predictions
In today’s episode of the CBT Podcast, we spend an hour breaking down the Big Ten. We go through the ranks, team by team, and not only discuss their prospects for the season, but we give a bold prediction for each and every program in the league.
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Thanks for listening!
College Hoops Contender Series: Three (flawed?) Final Four Favorites
Who are the favorites to win a national title? Who can legitimately be called a contender? Who has the pieces to make a run to the Final Four? We’ll break that all down for you over the next three weeks in our Contender Series.
To me, there is a clear-cut line between the teams in the top five and the rest of the top 25. Duke probably should be ranked No. 1 in your preseason poll, but their question marks at the point guard spot are enough that I won’t completely discredit your opinion if you have any of those other five teams ranked above them.
I also think there is another clear-cut tier of teams, ranging from 6th-11th, that are good enough that they are a decent bet to get to the Final Four in Phoenix but flawed enough that we cannot consider them a true title contender, at least not in October.
We’ll take a look at three of those six teams right now.
Louisville Cardinals: The Cardinals, despite playing the latter half of ACC play with a self-imposed postseason ban hanging over their heads, still managed to finish the season with the look of a top 15 team. They finished the year ranked 10th in KenPom’s formula, second in his adjusted defensive efficiency metric and third in an ACC that sent a team to the national title game, two teams to the Final Four and six teams to the Sweet 16.
The bad news?
The three best players on that Louisville team are off to the professional ranks. Damion Lee and Trey Lewis, the two grad transfers that Rick Pitino brought into the program, left, as did Chinanu Onuaku, who declared for the NBA Draft.
The good news?
Last year was always supposed to be a bridge year. Pitino knew that he was losing Terry Rozier and Montrezl Harrell after the 2014-15 season, and he also knew that the talented 2015 recruiting class that he signed was going to need a year to adjust to playing in the collegiate ranks. So while losing Lee’s scoring certainly won’t help, it will open up minutes and shot attempts for Donovan Mitchell, a player that just about everyone expects to take a major step forward this season.
There are two reasons to be bullish on Mitchell: 1. He is built in the mold of a classic Rick Pitino off-guard, a big, strong athletic player that’s skilled with the rock and a menace defensively, and 2. He showed terrific flashes as a freshman: 17 points at Duke; 11 points and six boards at Virginia; 18 points against Wake Forest.
But Mitchell may not even be the best sophomore on Louisville’s roster. That title, some around the program believe, could belong to Deng Adel. Much of his freshman season was spent battling knee issues, but he’s the kind of big, athletic small forward that Pitino has success with.
That duo, plus the likes of Ray Spalding and V.J. King, should make Card fans excited.
There are, however, two major question marks on this roster: the point guard spot and the front court.
Quentin Snider was a top 30 recruit coming out of high school, but he hasn’t been quite good enough as a defender or a distributor to live up to that potential just yet. He’s not Peyton Siva and he’s not Chris Jones and he’s not Russ Smith, but he is the only true point guard on the roster. The Cards are going to need a big year out of him, just like they’re going to need a big year out of someone on their front line.
It doesn’t really matter who.
It could be Mangok Mathiang or Anas Mahmoud or Matz Stockman or Jaylen Johnson.
But one of those four is going to have to find a way to take over the starting center position and provide the backbone defensively, the rim protection and the work on the glass that left with Onuaku. He was one of the best defensive rebounders in the country and top 30 nationally in block percentage. He ended possessions and allowed Louisville to gamble on the perimeter. If they can’t replace his production, their defense takes a hit, and there isn’t enough offensive firepower for the Cards to be anything less than elite defensively.
North Carolina Tar Heels: UNC proved a lot of people wrong down the stretch of the season. The knock on them was toughness, both mental and physical. They struggled with late-game execution, they struggled in big games, they struggled when they were pushed around by an opponent. And then they went and beat Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium to lock up the outright ACC regular season title, they won the ACC tournament and they made it to the national title game, erasing a 10-point deficit in the final five minutes and getting one of the greatest shots in tourney history from Marcus Paige only to lose on the first title-winning buzzer-beater.
So yeah, all those people that questioned their toughness now have some explaining to do.
But there was also another issue with UNC, one that people didn’t talk about quite as much: While their roster was loaded with highly-ranked and highly-recruited players, it didn’t really have all that much NBA talent on it. And in the offseason, the two sure-fire pros on the roster — Brice Johnson and Paige — both graduated.
What’s left is a group of players have yet to live up to the hype that comes with the high school all-star games they played in and the number of stars next to their names on recruiting websites. In other words, what has Justin Jackson, or Isaiah Hicks, or Theo Pinson, or Kennedy Meeks done in their career in Chapel Hill that would make you believe that, as the core of a Tar Heel team, they can win a title?
The one potential exception to that is Joel Berry II. He was arguably UNC’s best player, and definitely their best guard, over the final month-or-so of last season, and I expect that development to continue into next season. That’s key, because the best UNC teams under Roy Williams have had terrific point guard play, from Ray Felton to Ty Lawson to Kendall Marshall.
But they’ve also had a hoss on the block to run their secondary break actions through, whether it be Sean May, Tyler Hansbrough, Tyler Zeller or Johnson.
All of them were All-Americans and NBA Draft picks.
Will Hicks or Meeks fall into that category?
And, for that matter, will Berry?
Virginia Cavaliers: The only real problem with Tony Bennett’s methodical, defensive-minded style of play is that the plodding nature of his teams makes it difficult for people to truly understand just how good some of the players on his roster are.
Case in point: Malcolm Brogdon.
Brogdon’s raw numbers last season were good enough, averaging 18.1 points, 4.1 boards and 3.1 assists while falling a total of 1.4 percentage points away from joining the 50-40-90 club. Those numbers were stymied, however, by the fact that Virginia was, quite literally, the slowest team in the country. No one played fewer possessions meaning no star player got fewer shots than Brogdon did, which is a long-winded way of saying that the loss of the first-team all-american will be a bigger void than folks may realize.
The issue isn’t on the defensive end of the floor. Virginia’s program, at this point, can plug-and-play just about anyone and still churn out one of the nation’s best defensive teams. Without Brogdon and Justin Anderson, they may not set records like they did two years ago, but this is still going to be a top ten defense.
No, the problem is going to be offensively. Brogdon was their go-to guy. He was the player that they ran off of screens and called plays for when they needed a bucket. He was their highest-usage player and 28.3% of his possessions came when he was run off of a screen; that equates to more than 7.5% of Virginia’s half-court possessions last season.
And it’s not just the shots that he made that Virginia will miss. It’s the shots that he created. He had ‘gravity’, meaning that as he ran off of those screens defenses had to adjust. That opened up chances for the players setting the picks to duck-in or slip a screen and it allowed Bennett more freedom with his play-calling.
Austin Nichols should have an all-ACC — maybe even an All-America — caliber season and I don’t think we’ve seen the best of London Perrantes yet, but if you cannot appreciate how much harder life will be offensively without Brogdon on the floor you don’t appreciate just how good he was last year.